Call us: 416-735-9091

Driving While Intoxicated: Auto Insurance Implications

This article was shared with OMQ Law by Shop Insurance Canada. The views expressed in this article Driving While Intoxicated -Auto Insurance Implications are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of OMQ Law – although we do appreciate Shop Insurance Canada for sharing their perspective with us.

Driving while intoxicated is a problem on Canadian roads, but it is currently dwarfed by the impact of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The definition of DWI (driving while intoxicated) differs depending on the laws where it is implemented. In most cases, DWI means a driver who operates a vehicle while impaired (by drugs, alcohol or some unknown substance), while DUI is reserved solely for drivers under the influence of alcohol.

DWI cases will outnumber DUI cases considerably in Canada during the coming years as it encompasses both alcohol and drug use while operating a vehicle. In both cases (DUI and DWI), drivers who are caught will face severe legal penalties. The consequences for DWI offences can also be dire for auto insurance, with culpable drivers facing huge premiums when they shop for auto insurance quotes in the future.

Canada is currently pursuing the legalization of marijuana through legislation to be brought in 2017 by the Liberal government. While drivers are more than familiar with DUI, they are about to be faced with DWI as a common term.

Until now, the problem of driving while high has seemed almost insignificant compared to the problems Canada faces with drunk driving offences. In the OMQ infographic highlighting DUI and DWI offences in Canada and the United States, the evidence suggests that only 1,000 out of every 50,000 DUI offences are drug related.

It is a problem yes, but is a minor statistic next to epidemic levels of drunk driving. However, with Canada in the final stages of legalizing marijuana, the number of DWI offences is expected to grow. While policing efforts for catching high drivers may be different, the penalties will remain the same, including the auto insurance implications.

In the state of Washington, the legalization of marijuana has resulted in a significant rise in fatal road accidents, which have more than doubled since 2012. It is a similar story in Colorado, where DUI offences are decreasing, but the number of arrests for DWI offences has increased 6% since 2015. Canada already faces problems with drunk drivers, with one third of all fatal collisions in 2014 caused by alcohol impairment. Cannabis legalization will see DWI offences grow and policing demands increase.

DUI Consequences on Auto Insurance

Insurance industry expert, Shop Insurance Canada (a provider of auto insurance quotes in Ontario and beyond), points out that drivers caught operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana or any other drug will face harsh insurance consequences.

While first offenders are likely to escape with demerit points against their license, severe cases or repeat offenders will see their car insurance prices skyrocket. Insurance providers will instantly deem these motorists as high risk drivers, an insurance category that pays amongst the highest premiums on the market.

Auto insurance companies have a specific criteria for classifying a high risk driver, but all will put a DWI offender in the high risk category. The only way to avoid becoming a high risk driver and paying excessive insurance costs is to maintain a clean record and drive clean. It is important to know that convictions remain on a record for three years before an auto insurance company will even consider lowering a premium to non-DUI levels.

The reason insurance carriers see DWI and DUI drivers as high risk is because they deem these drivers as more likely to be in a collision. This means they are more likely to have to pay out in the event of a claim, so to protect themselves from loss they raise premiums to high levels. DWI offenders involved in an accident will see insurance premiums remain high for numerous renewal cycles as claims remain on a record for six to nine years.

Even worse than becoming a high risk driver is the fact that some insurance companies will simply refuse to insure a DWI offender. Canada employs a system where any legal motorist has a basic right to auto insurance. However, private providers do not have an obligation to offer coverage, so when DWI offenders go through the car insurance quote process, they may find they cannot find a policy. There are avenues to take to solve this problem, but they come at huge cost.

The only way to ensure that car insurance quotes stay as low as possible is to be a clean driver. Marijuana legalization will shine a spotlight on DWI offences and the police are likely to be extra-vigilant as the country sees if they are able to manage the spotlight. Driving while intoxicated often results in convictions and high auto insurance rates, so stay clean behind the wheel.